There's no doubt 2007 will be remembered as the year social media exploded. Wikipedia, Facebook, YouTube, Digg, Flickr and quite a few other social media sites entered the mainstream as companies scrambled to figure out how to approach this new form of marketing. There's no doubt 2008 will see continued growth of social media, but you have to wonder what the "big" explosion for 2008 will be. Logic + Emotion's David Armano thinks 2008 may be the year of mobile media.
The way we interact with technology is changing. Computers used to be about work. Then they quickly became about play. Then work and play began to blur all together. Laptops and wireless set us free, but then laptops started feeling like work again. Social media, though it has real business applications feels like play—it's fun and quite addictive. 2007 was a big year for social media. 2008 may be the year mobile media really begins to take off.
I'll admit, I've always been rather skeptical of "mobile search" and the "mobile web." After all, who wants to surf web sites on a tiny phone when they could simply login with their laptop? The user experience is cumbersome, download times are slow and very few sites are created so they'll run well on a cell phone. That said the last month has seen my skepticism about the value of the mobile web changing to raving fandom.
What sparked the change?
I got an iPhone.
The iPhone doesn't use the way-lame mobile browsers I'd tried on other cell phones. It uses Safari. In fact, 95 times out of 100, I don't even need to use the "mobile" version of a site. I simply type in the URLs I want and head there to do some surfing. My pop3 email accounts are integrated as well, giving me full access to my inbox no matter where I am.
Admittedly, I got the iPhone because I thought it would be a fun toy. I really didn't think it would be practical in terms of surfing the web. I was so very wrong.
I now send about 40% of my email from my phone and do about half of my surfing on it. Yes, I use it while I'm out and about, but I also find myself using it around the house pretty often. I have two toddlers, one of which is still at the age where my laptop is the most fascinating toy ever. Trying to work in a room while watching two kids, one of whom is obsessed with my laptop hasn't been easy. The iPhone? Well, that fits in one hand and can easily be raised out of reach. If the kids aren't napping or watching cartoons, I work via my iPhone instead of my laptop now.
And it works. It's not a compromise I came up with to try and get something done. It's actually practical. In fact, I find myself surfing the web in the evenings on it rather than my laptop because the user interface is that good. It's been practical in every day life too.
On Black Thursday I was out shopping with the hoards. I found myself in Radio Shack eyeing a GPS unit as the salesman told me they'd "slashed the price" and the units were selling so fast they only had two left. As he went to check on another customer, I pulled out my iPhone, logged on to Google and ran a price check. Sure enough, Linens and Things had it for the same price and we had a 20% off coupon. Then I spotted it on Buy.com for $100 less than I could get it at Linens and Things. The salesman came back over as I was finishing up.
"You're checking prices on your phone, aren't you?"
"You found it cheaper, didn't you?"
And off I went, having saved about $150.
Just last week I found myself stuck on the tarmac in Chicago during a snowstorm. While we waited I logged on to Amazon.com and ordered a few gifts for my husband and kids. The packages arrived at my house the day I came home from my trip. (Message to Wal-Mart: if you didn't rely on flash, I'd have bought things from you too.)
Suddenly, the mobile web didn't seem like such a dumb idea anymore.
David has noticed this too and credits products like the iPhone for next year's probable boom.
Apple has proven that the mobile experience doesn't have to suck and in fact can be delightful. It's kicked the mobile industry in the ass and is forcing them to innovate. This means that the mobile experience is going to get better for all of us, whether we choose to buy an iPhone, a Verizon Voyager or something else. The iPhone effect is making people feel like they need a "smart phone" the same way the RAZR made people feel like they needed a thin phone that did less but looked really cool. Better mobile experiences will eventually lead to more mobile behavior.
Of course it's not just phones. In my house, I can now get online with my choice of two desktops, a laptop, a Wii, my iPhone, my husband's Nintendo DS or my iPod Touch. Those last three are all "mobile" options. As more and more affordable, wi-fi enabled "non-computer" gadgets show up, the mobile market will continue to expand.
You may have ignored mobile search and the mobile web this year and gotten away with it. Are you sure you can ignore it again next year?
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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